What do you learn in Violin School?


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Gerard. I hadn't looked at the pictures before my last post but can see from them that one thing you do not want to do is continue to work on your own without further training. You've got the basic hand skills but now need to learn what to do with them. I would think you would benefit from either school or apprenticeship and that your age, family status finances and where you want to live could all be factors in deciding on your next step.

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Just curious... What resources (books, videos etc) are you using.  As was mentioned the best feedback is honest criticism of your work.   Do you play the violins so that you can assess your sound personally without relying on polite comments.  Setup and adjustments are also big component of violin making.

Thanks for the pictures of your violins.

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22 hours ago, GerardM said:

Good point Doug I have had them played by professional violinists who remarked how well they sounded. However being hungry for more knowledge I was considering if I’d gain more by attending school. 

 

2 hours ago, FiddleDoug said:

I asked earlier if you had your violins evaluated or critiqued by a reputable person. You replied that you had professional violinists say that they sounded nice. That's not what I meant! Have you had a reputable violin maker critique your instruments? I too can make very nice furniture, but I wouldn't dream of calling myself a violin maker. We still haven't seen any pictures of your violins. If you don't value the opinions that you're getting here, why stay?

Garnering opinions from people who play professionally is essentially pointless on early instruments. They are people after all, and are unlikely to tell you the truth for fear of offending. Therefore, comments like it sounds lovely, or sounds well, is the polite way of letting you down. What you really need to know is what they later told their friends, while laughing about it at the bar after rehearsal.
 

37 minutes ago, Brad Dorsey said:

Now that I've seen pictures of your violins, I think you would.

I would agree with this.
It seems these days, everyone thinks they can fast track everything, or that the internet makes it all easy. Those who became successful as makers of new violin family instruments, tend to have spent an entire lifetime learning, and immersed in musical circles. It requires a level of dedication often not found in many.
Along the way, they have made huge sacrifices in order to achieve this level of success, when a much better life could have been obtained from an alternative career.

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I bought the Courtnall and Johnson The art of violin making and the Juliet Barker book. Plus watching YouTube videos. I have friends who play, they play and I listen and make my assessment of rye sound plus their feedback on playability etc. What’s the average time to make a violin? 

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6 minutes ago, Wood Butcher said:

 

Garnering opinions from people who play professionally is essentially pointless on early instruments. They are people after all, and are unlikely to tell you the truth for fear of offending. Therefore, comments like it sounds lovely, or sounds well, is the polite way of letting you down. What you really need to know is what they later told their friends, while laughing about it at the bar after rehearsal.
 

I would agree with this.

 

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They are definitely NOT afraid to voice options. Not all of my violins were well received. The first one was a bit boxy and not very well received ( graduations to thick a bit too solid) The next two received a bit better reception (a BIT not great) They resonated better but then that then showed how poor the strings were as I’d been using cheap strings. As I’ve progressed each one has got a bit better as my setup skills have improved. The last two they commented on how well they were sounding when compared to the earlier models. In my haste to learn arching and graduations I do admit to rushing on the construction in order to try out different grads and arches and get a new fiddle knocked out for testing. So the Finnish quality is not paramount to me at the moment. JUST for the RECORD this is NOT an excuse OK. I posted the pictures just in case anybody might think I’m a fantasist and have never made anything. While I’m still experimenting I don’t see the point in making a beautiful instrument that’s of poor sounding quality. The fiddle with the ribs inlayed was an afterthought because the sound quality was very poor I decided I’d sett to and carve out the ribs and if they collapsed then nothing lost.

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9 minutes ago, GerardM said:

 I don’t see the point in making a beautiful instrument that’s of poor sounding quality. 

The answer to your original question, is probably that you could learn what a violin looks like

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6 hours ago, GerardM said:

A bit bitchy Marty. I never suggested violin school was no damm good. Having trained to make furniture which included veneering and inlay work, constructing curved staircases and matching handrails etc etc. So turning my hand to violin making was not a huge step. The fact is it’s not difficult to make a violin. However how do you make a great sounding violin that would stand up to a Stradivarius or Guarneri? Meany years and a great number of instruments later you may achieve it. SO to get back to my original question WOULD I benefit from a three year course at violin school seeing as I can produce a good looking instrument for me it’s another piece of furniture. If you make a violin shaped object IT will sound like a violin, NOT a great sounding violin but a violin nevertheless. I have no interest in restoration work. Finally IF violin school only gives you the skill sett to produce instruments, I already have the skills. So I would imagine I would not gain a great deal. If you can work with wood to a high standard then you can turn your hand to other things. I would guess Stradivarius could produce quality furniture if he had been asked. Also I’m NOT belittling violin makers just for the record we all share the same hand skills just apply them to different shaped objects. This turned out a bit of a rant but i hope I have got my point across.

Stick around for a while, read old threads on this forum. You'll learn a lot. Including the fact that Marty is a great guy with an excellent and pervasive sense of humor. Be kind here and you will get further than if you are reflexive.

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Now that I have seen your images:

Your work is very individual in appearance. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but will make it difficult for you to successfully sell your Instruments regardless of how well they may sound. You would definitely benefit from stepping away from the bench and studying excellent instruments of the past and whatever technical drawings you can acquire, especially more recent ones that include CT imagery. Train your eyes through observation and drawing.

Practically, it appears from what I can tell from your photos that your biggest acoustical problem is arching. Aside from material selection, this is probably the single most important factor in the performance of an instrument. Graduations, while important, are a distant third. Again, careful study of successful violins will show you where changes need to be made. 

I will admonish you once more to approach this craft and this forum with humility and openness. You will learn so much more, so much faster, if you do this. Defensiveness will be as a millstone around your neck in this or any endeavor.

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5 minutes ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Stick around for a while, read old threads on this forum. You'll learn a lot. Including the fact that Marty is a great guy with an excellent and pervasive sense of humor. Be kind here and you will get further than if you are reflexive.

I’m big enough and ugly enough to take a knock on the chin. The written word is always a risk of being taken the wrong way. When spoken you hear the inflection and tone which give can give the words a different intent. Violin making is a completely different world to furniture. When you make a piece of furniture it is what it is. Making a violin ( in the beginning while learning)  you don’t no what it is until it’s strung up and played. I know if I slow down I can produce a good looking instrument, but it would not be of an excellent sound quality. So my question was not meant to be disparaging towards violin school as in “there’s nothing I can learn”   off  COURSE  there’s mountains of things I could learn. I was curious as to weather I would get in-depth knowledge of graduations and arching in school. Or is this area something you only learn from making. Which is were I am at the moment. 

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I understand the frustration of not wanting to spend time/money on an endevour that doesn't end up being of benefit to you, but at the same time, at this point in time you don't quite know what additional 'education' will actually be of benefit either.

First, I think you need to firmly establish exactly what it is you want to do with your violin-making.  You said you are not interested in restoration or repair.  So Plan A is that you want to make violins from scratch. 

Do you have a Plan B?  What if you can't make a living with Plan A?  Doesn't mean you can't do it as a hobby, but you also can't make any violin if you don't have a roof over your head.

Okay then, back to making violins from scratch, who are you wanting to make these violins for?  Amateurs looking for a 'bespoke' instrument?  Professionals?

Either group will want violins that perform.  So you have to produce top performing instruments.  Amateurs might (or maybe not, since they often get hung up on the minutia of appearance) be more forgiving of looks, so if your corners are a bit off, or your f-holes are not finessed, it might not matter.  Professionals definitely will want an instrument that is status quo.

Then you need to compete with all the other violin-makers that are at the top of their game.  Being an expert, in any field, requires attention to detail.  How do you know what those details are?

When you go to school (and/or apprentice), you are obligated to learn about things that you might not have considered, or have dismissed as unimportant for some reason, etc.  That information, whether you appreciate it or not at the time, seeps into your collective knowledge base and will influence your final output. Even relearning what you think you know, at the very least, helps hone those skills.  Maybe you learn a 'better' way of doing it.  You will even learn from a 'negative' experience, you will learn what might be a waste of time or how NOT to do something.

And...during that entire process of school/apprenticeship you are also networking.  You are learning who's who and they are learning who you are.  You need to be 'in' to some extent in order to succeed (at whatever level that ends up being) and not just with other luthiers, but also with musicians, marketing people, etc.  Again, you are learning about the entire industry.

It's up to you to decide the value of all that.

 

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19 minutes ago, GerardM said:

... I was curious as to weather I would get in-depth knowledge of graduations and arching in school. Or is this area something you only learn from making. Which is were I am at the moment. 

To the point:  Yes.  You will learn about graduations and arching in school.  Why?  Because they are crucial to the production of a top performing instrument and you will only become adept at it as you make more instruments.  They're not separate concepts.

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2 hours ago, Wood Butcher said:

It seems these days, everyone thinks they can fast track everything, or that the internet makes it all easy. Those who became successful as makers of new violin family instruments, tend to have spent an entire lifetime learning, and immersed in musical circles. It requires a level of dedication often not found in many.

I would agree with this. No doubt, the internet has made a wealth of resources available for access by many. That's a valuable asset as a supplement, but so often it is seen as a replacement. It's certainly no shortcut, but rather it is simply more information that's available for one to use wisely (or not).

Besides the fact that it requires immense dedication, it is essential in learning such a craft to have a lot of quality feedback on your work, instead of doing the same thing over and over oneself under the illusion that you are advancing. The most growth and learning comes from a good critical eye and receiving welcome feedback.

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9 minutes ago, avandesande said:

Everything is important. For a musician to develop a relationship with your instrument that they will spend thousands of hours with, it must look it's best.

Some violinists like to think that they are only interested in sound, but try asking them to spend so many hours with a homely fiddle. ;)

Style in construction is also important when one considers the effect of the way that our perceptions about an instrument effect our judgments on it's tone. Placebo effect and psychoacoustics and all of that. Think of everyone coming here with 'the usual' from grand-dad's attic who can hear the violins sweet french sound, all because of the bogus label someone slapped inside.

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1 hour ago, Rue said:

To the point:  Yes.  You will learn about graduations and arching in school.  Why?  Because they are crucial to the production of a top performing instrument and you will only become adept at it as you make more instruments.  They're not separate concepts.

THANK you Rue that was the information i required when I asked the question. Seems I’ve upset a lot of people. As I said previously the written word can be misunderstood. From my perspective it seems I’ve received a number of bitchy comments. But then that could be me misunderstanding the intent of these comments, and vice verse. Nothing like a heated debate. Hope the hornets nest I disturbed will have settled down by the time I post another question. All of you take care in these Covid troubled times stay safe. 

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3 minutes ago, GerardM said:

Seems I’ve upset a lot of people.

No worries. I don't think you have upset anybody. Hang around here, and you will get to know people's personalities. Just because somebody is crotchety does not mean that they are upset. 

Good luck with whatever you decide. 

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24 minutes ago, GerardM said:

that was the information i required when I asked the question. 

Re graduation: You will find that most old violins are about 3,5mm in the middle, and blending into about 2,5mm around the edges, if that is your main concern

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THANK you Jacob. As I stated earlier if this is fully covered in violin school then I will be enrolling. Hence what do you learn in violin school? I was thinking that if you were just given the basic skill set to make a violin and sent on your way. Then I may as well  blunder on experimenting as I am now with hastily made violins until I get to grips with what grads and arching produces a sound that’s considered good. Thank you again.

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Keep in mind too, that you will only take away, from school/apprenticeship, as much as you are wanting, or willing, to take away.

I've met a lot of closed-minded, or even adversarial, students that don't want to be taught.  Then they walk away from a class NOT having learned much, and then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy...that school was a waste of their time.  For some reason they don't understand that they, and not the class and not the instructor, were the main issue.

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48 minutes ago, GerardM said:

THANK you Jacob. As I stated earlier if this is fully covered in violin school then I will be enrolling.

Nothing is "fully covered" in violinmaking school. Why? Because three years isn't nearly enough to know everything that is important to know.

I've been in the business for about 50 years now, and am still learning. (Of course, one possible explanation is that I have reached the age where I am forgetting things faster than I can learn them, so it is an illusion I am learning anything new). :lol:

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38 minutes ago, GerardM said:

THANK you Jacob. As I stated earlier if this is fully covered in violin school then I will be enrolling. Hence what do you learn in violin school? I was thinking that if you were just given the basic skill set to make a violin and sent on your way. Then I may as well  blunder on experimenting as I am now with hastily made violins until I get to grips with what grads and arching produces a sound that’s considered good. Thank you again.

Your idea of a basic skill set may be quite different from what a violin making school considers to be a basic skill set. One thing that I'm pretty sure of is that you'll be starting from the ground up, having to prove you skill to the teachers (to their satisfaction, not yours) at every step along the way. In those schools it will be pretty much "their way, or the highway".

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